Quote of the Day - I'm an addicted snowboarder -- I snowboard about 110 days a year, ... I mostly snowboard out west -- I'm a Champagne snowboarder.
MIPTC is off to the local slopes tomorrow for a bit of the (unfortunately mostly man-made) white stuff, but this case gave me a bit of pause before going. Regular readers know that I've been skiing since college and previously qualified as an almost-official ski bum, having taught my way through school and on-and-off since then when I can get away.
No, I don't snowboard, and yes, they whizz by me almost as fast as I whizz by them (in self-defense, of course) and there are always two thin, long planks tied below this skier's feet, now somewhat shaped to add some depth to those carved turns. When I stop and watch those crazy snowboarders, though, I sometimes think of the attendant liability associated with skiing and snowboarding, especially when the two collide. It's the bane of being a lawyer. I see risk where others ignore it.
Every season, the obligatory appellate case(s) come out and remind us that skiing and snowboarding are dangerous sports. They each cite back to the general rule that you assume the risk of injury unless the resort does something grossly negligent to increase your risk. Those waivers on the back of your ticket actually work. Most ski resorts do nothing of the kind, and consequently, the plaintiffs who bring "I-was-injured-on-your-slopes-so-you-owe-me-lots-of-money"cases frequently lose.
I haven't conducted a scientific survey, but since I've been a lawyer, I've read most of these cases because of my interest in skiing and believe that something like 95% of them are losers for the plaintiff. Yet they keep coming. So when I read a second recent case, again involving Mammoth Mountain, I was surprised that the Plaintiff won, but actually not too surprised.
So go ahead, snowboarders, get your pen at the ready and your keyboard warmed up to complain.
I wasn't surprised because both cases turned on one fact: the courts ruled for the plaintiffs, and sent the cases back to the trial court to determine whether the snowboarder's conduct was so reckless that there was no assumption of the risk. In the first case, a snowboarder ignored his coach's instructions, went on a steep run he'd never skied before, "raced" against his friends, didn't pay attention to where he was headed, and at the last minute smashed into a skier standing alongside the run, and hit the skier so hard that they both flew 50 feet in the air.
Here's how the court put it the resulting damage: the standing skier "suffered severe injuries. The impact shattered her ankle and broke her lower leg into 16 pieces. Her right tibia and pelvis were fractured, the muscles and tendons in her thigh were torn, and she was bruised throughout her body. The surgeon who operated on her equated her bone fractures with those suffered in a car or motorcycle accident."
The snowboarder was unhurt.
Is it hard to imagine why snowboarders are held liable?